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Swiss Ecosystem for Defence Innovation

Is the Swiss Innovation System for National Security ready for the future? This question was discussed at the Deftech Day in Thun based on various different perspectives and experiences on November 13, 2019.

03.12.2019 | Dr. Quentin Ladetto

deftech innovationsnetzwerk schweiz panel 2
Panel 2: STA Präsident Fritz Gantert, Nationalrat Ruedi Noser, Oliver Thränert (Moderator), Direktorin Innosuisse Annalise Eggimann, Divisionär Claude Meier, Leiter armasuisse S+T Thomas Rothacher

This day definitely delivered fuel for innovation – perhaps it also sparked incentives that can now be continued and lead to initiatives? Innovative, disruptive ideas for new structures and organizations or innovations on a small scale – with regard to the cultural change required, it is the sum of the changes that shape the big picture which counts. For those interested, photos and some of the presentations can be found here: DEFTECH.

DEFTECH-Days 2020

Deftech will certainly stay on the ball regarding the questions raised, including the Deftech Days 2020. If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of technological developments relevant to Swiss security, you definitely need to reserve the following dates:

  • May 5th 2020 «Human-Machine Interface and Interaction»
  • September 17th 2020 «High Altitude Platforms»
  • November 10th 2020 «Hypervelocity Missiles»

Results in a nutshell

You were not able to participate in the Deftech Day event, but would like a brief overview of the statements made? Here is a brief overview:

Customer-oriented

Developing the right solutions to solve the right problems is exactly what Major General Meier underlined in his presentation. How and where do our limited resources best invest in innovation? With this in mind, the discussion participants also repeatedly mentioned that innovation is intended to close the gaps between future scenarios or required skills and technologies. Understanding the customer's needs and actively working together with the customer is a key issue in creating the respective values.

Adaptable

This is also a cultural issue, assuming that the framework conditions allow it. And as Dr. Ehlert emphasised, change is always associated with a degree of uncertainty. A bridge needs to built between leadership and innovation providers, in order to promote innovation appropriately and thus maintain or build up adaptability. As a possible approach for addressing the conflict between technological change and the lifespan of solutions, the increased usage of open architectures was mentioned in order to integrate innovative solutions along the life cycle and not just to have the fifth best solution.

Imaginative

Based on the fact that today, as Dr. Shapira pointed out, the civil market is the technology driver, it is important to identify the potential of civil trends and developments and their military usage in the dual-usage sense and thus develop new solutions. The ability to recognise innovative concepts, processes and technologies from the civilian sector and to transpose them for military benefit will be significant, according to Major General Süssli. However, as Mr Noser, member of the Council of States, also pointed out, the creative phase is only a small part of the strenuous process from the idea to the product, in which resistance has to be overcome again and again.

Experimental

How can we create possibilities that allow errors in an environment with low fault tolerance, as this can be fatal? Major General Meier mentioned “Concept Development” and “Experimentation” several times, which represent components of an ecosystem innovation. How other countries are proceeding, such as Canada with its dedicated innovation budget and high level of ambition, offers interesting approaches on how innovation can be supported. Such instruments allow us to port the spirit of experimentation and tolerance towards mistakes into the army more strongly. Furthermore, as mentioned in Panel 1, the willingness to experiment also encompasses the explicit examination of the process of innovation and, in many cases, the experimental exploration of new methodological territory – under the heading of design thinking or innovation workshops. And as mentioned, much is a question of culture. In other words, do we manage to understand the added value of failures in the sense of a continuous optimization process and to draw lessons from it?

Collaborative

one overarching topic was the need for collaboration and cooperative relationships between all those involved. This includes collaboration on a national and international level as well as between the academy, industry, the authorities and politics. The complexity of today's highly interdisciplinary world can only be addressed by increasing team complexity, for example through spinner clubs. As Prof. Vetterli pointed out, armasuisse W+T is pursuing the goal of bringing together and collaborating with the Cyber Defence Campus, in other words, promoting precisely this industry, academy and cross-agency collaboration. We have also heard that it is precisely this collaboration that can be seen not only as a competence, but also as a funding multiplication factor. And as Major General Siegenthaler, among others, emphasised, the army needs more flexible, agile processes. To this end, it must strengthen its collaboration with the political authorities, so that we can create an overall agile ecosystem.